WION New Delhi, Delhi, India
Dec 15, 2018, 07.29 PM
Mahinda Rajapaksa tendered his resignation today seven weeks after he was appointed as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka replacing Ranil Wickremesinghe. The unconstitutional act of President Maithripala Sirisena was struck down by court and drew huge criticism from Sri Lanka and around the world. Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's former president, signed his resignation letter at a ceremony in his house. The resignation brought the curtain down on the two-month impasse and the power struggle between the two biggest Political Parties in the country. Wickremesinghe is expected to return to office on Sunday.
In an exclusive conversation with WION, Namal Rajapaksa, son of Mahinda Rajapaksa, spoke about his next course of action, China’s role in the island nation and importance of India-Sri Lanka relationship. Edited excerpts
WION: What will be your next move now that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has resigned?
Namal: Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday tendered his resignation after the Supreme Court delivered a judgement against the holding of the General Election which was declared by President Maithripala Sirisena.
In a special statement released on Saturday, following his resignation, Rajapaksa said he was resigning so that a new government could be formed under President Sirisena.
Also, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna along with President Sirisena and his United People's Freedom Alliance will work to form a broad coalition. The United National Party has been stripped to a minor government now with only 103 seats, so we will now establish a strong opposition and work for the betterment of Sri Lanka.
WION: What does the SLPP think is the best for the people of Sri Lanka? Fresh elections or letting Ranil complete his term?
Namal: In any country, when the government holds only 103 seats in a 225 member Parliament, how can it get anything done? On Dec 12, when a resolution was passed expressing confidence in Ranil Wickremasinghe, the country was able to see the real state of things. A total of 117 MPs voted for Ranil Wickremasinghe. 14 of those votes belonged to the TNA. Even though the TNA requested that Ranil Wickremasinghe be appointed as Prime Minister, on the same day, TNA Parliamentarian Mavei Senathirajah made a special statement in Parliament on behalf of the TNA saying that though they voted for Wickremesinghe, they would not join the government and would remain in the opposition. So this itself clearly shows that the UNP will now function as a minority government with 103 seats.
Therefore, we will continue to call for a Parliamentary Election as it is the only way through which a strong, stable, government can come into place. It will be difficult for Wickremesinghe to continue with a minority government.
WION: There has been no word from President Sirisena on your father's resignation. Did you or your party speak to him? What is his take on this?
Namal: Durin the Parliamentary group meeting on Friday evening we had conveyed to President Sirisena that we will resign because that was the understanding from the very beginning. We had only come in as a caretaker government for about two months, with the final goal of holding a Parliamentary Election. So when the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, there was no point in us in trying to persuade MPs to join our side when we never wanted to form a government without holding an election.
WION: Will you be supporting the impeachment process if brought against President Sirisena?
Namal: The impeachment motion is purely the idea of the UNP and it is they who are initiating this. We believe that President Sirisena acted in the best interest of the nation when he sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister. Even now, although we respect the Supreme Court decision, we believe that it is the people's mandate which should be taken into account. So, we are not willing to support the UNP in this impeachment motion as it has been brought in only for the UNPs interest. Already the government is very unstable, so there is no point in making the presidency unstable too.
WION: How do you look at India, Sri Lanka ties.
Namal: Rajapaksa, I and the party, have always maintained that India has been one of our strongest friends and development partners. That has not changed in any way. Rajapaksa has always maintained strong ties with the successive Indian leaders. In fact, during his tenure as President, Rajapaksa worked closely with Indian leaders to strengthen several sectors in both countries. But of course, all our foreign relations have been based on a non-aligned policy. So we will continue our relations with India in this manner.
WION: Do you think there is any Chinese role in the current turmoil in your country?
Namal: Not at all. These are all baseless allegations. China, just like India, has been a strong friend and partner of Sri Lanka. We praise their policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka or any other country. It is not right to falsely discredit any country.
China, just like India, has been a strong friend and partner of Sri Lanka